Friday, 10 February 2012

Three Bridges vs Gresley FC (28/01/12)

Match 145

Ground #: 111

Ground: Jubilee Field

Competition: FA Vase 4th Round Replay 

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1

Attendance: 308

Three Bridges 2

Rivers 29’, Touray 109’, Grant s/off 96’

Gresley FC 2

Turville 63’, Spencer 116’, Turville m/pen 18’

(Gresley win 7-6 on penalties)


The rematch. After a brilliant 120 minute slogfest in Derbyshire the week before, nobody wanted to miss this one. And it was the only match on my list for this Saturday to see how this cup tie ended. Down to Sussex then!


Three Bridges is a neighbourhood within the town of Crawley in West Sussex. Three Bridges was a tiny hamlet, which first began to grow with the coming of the London and Brighton Railway in 1841. Despite beliefs to the contrary, the village was not named after rail bridges, but rather for three much older crossings over the streams in the area (River Mole tributaries). The hamlet became the site of an important railway junction in 1848 with the opening of the branch line to Horsham and thence to Portsmouth. The railway established a motive power depot and marshalling yards to the south of the village and a further branch line to East Grinstead was opened in 1855. The village changed radically with the coming of the New town development in the Crawley area in the late 1940s and Three Bridges was one of the first group of neighbourhoods to be built.


Despite being founded in 1901, Three Bridges FC (they started out as Three Bridges and Worth FC) have played all of their history in the Sussex Leagues picking up a trophy or two along the way. 1952 was their first season in the Sussex County Football League where they have played ever since. They were a yo-yo side throughout the 60s by dropping down to the Sussex County 2nd Division but did bounce back to the top flight rather quickly and they haven’t been back there since 1999. The club suffered a disaster in May 1993 when their clubhouse burnt down and threatened the club’s existence. However, they rebuilt the clubhouse and it now takes pride of place down the side of the pitch and also allows Three Bridges to host various County and League Cup finals. On the pitch, they have been steadied in recent years as since 2008 they have finished 6th, 5th, 7th and 5th. This season is a different matter though as they are currently in 5th but have the games in hand over leaders Rye United to overtake them so are considered favourites for their first ever Sussex County 1st Division title. In between the first game at Gresley and this one, they had played a minor cup match (the Brighton Charity Cup) and lost as their B team went down 6-1 to East Preston. The long unbeaten run had well and truly ended, but they were still going strong in the league.


Three Bridges’ Jubilee Field is very different to Gresley’s Moat Ground as large town landscape vs rolling hills is probably the main feature when you look at location. Jubilee Field is also a lot more open and feels more spacious with the lack of stands and cover around the ground. While the main clubhouse has a small bit of cover (picture above), opposite this is the main stand which sits in between the dugouts and next to a really shallow piece of terracing. There is another seated stand plonked in the corner while the rest of the ground is hard standing to give Jubilee Field an open feel, but nonetheless is a decent ground to watch football at. Gresley had also travelled down in large numbers (they probably outnumbered the home fans/neutrals) from Derbyshire as there looked to be a good atmosphere. Just before KO though a group of lager louts arrived at the ground and while at first they got the atmosphere going with some songs, they made their way behind the goal Gresley would be shooting at for the 1st half to “say hello” to Three Bridges goalie Simon Lehkyj. More on them later though.


Gresley started the match where they had left off the previous week in Derbyshire by being well on top as I thought the home side didn’t really look up for it. A strange sight to see considering how big this game was and how happy TB were to get the replay back down in Sussex. Gresley thought they had scored around 10 minutes in when Marc Goodfellow cracked a shot that was flying into the top corner, yet Lehkyj also picked up where he left off and made an outstanding save to tip the ball over the bar. TB only just got a foothold in the game when Gresley roared on by the mob behind the goal won a penalty. Goodfellow tricked and turned into the box when James Grant hacked him down. Clear cut. TB thought the ball had gone out of play, not so clear cut, and so argued the decision for some time. Goodfellow was also lucky to stay on the pitch after an altercation with Grant and he stuck his head in. Players have been sent off for that but he only received a yellow. Royce Turville stepped up, but his weak penalty was easily saved by Lehkyj and TB were let off. Gresley did create another couple of half chances before TB took the lead. A deflected shot found Tim Rivers all alone in the area who coolly passed the ball past Gary Hateley to put the home side 1-0 up after 29 minutes. Just before the game restarted though, it got nasty. The crowd behind the goal had given Lehkyj some abuse (it had overstepped the boundaries of “banter”) and the home goalie unwisely put his finger to his mouth with the shhhhhh as he walked back to goal towards them. Then there were claims he was spat at and the referee stopped kick off taking place as action needed to be taken. Gresley fans through their forum and comments I’ve read elsewhere deny this and I wasn’t behind the goal to confirm eitherway, but it was a shame it had come to this. The TB manager went to talk to them and was promptly told to f off before finally a Gresley official went to talk to them. Police were called also as the game still hadn’t kicked off as I thought at one point the referee would abandon! (what happens then FA!?) The rest of the half was a non-event as both sides played out time as it went to HT.


For the 2nd half I found @GrahamYapp as we watched Gresley come out and continue to play well as the police arrived and the rabble were still giving him abuse. Goodfellow was pulling the strings all across the pitch and his cut back to Jordi Gough should have seen better than a shot skied over the bar. Gresley kept pushing though and Dean Oliver’s shot/lob was again brilliantly saved by Lehkyj, but at a cost. He collapsed in a heap at his goal post as he must have pulled a muscle to keep that out. While the physio came on to help him, the classy bunch behind the goal were still giving him dogs abuse as he stayed on but looked in a lot of pain. No surprise then when Gresley equalised on 63 minutes, but even a fully fit Lehkyj would have struggled with Turville’s brilliantly placed header into the bottom corner from a Goodfellow cross. Lehkyj lasted another 15 minutes before being replaced by Rob Woodward, when he was coming off most of the crowd gave him their appreciation as he had shown a masterclass in goal keeping for around 190 minutes. Even Gresley goalie Hateley came over to shake his hand in a superb touch from the away man. Woodward was called into action before the end as he blocked Hanslow’s shot as Gresley pushed for a late winner. Right in injury time though Gough cleared a header off the line to push us into extra time, again. And again, I wasn’t complaining.


The first half of extra time was quite uneventful in terms of goalscoring chances as I think both sides probably thought it was going to penalties. TB were dealt a blow on 96 minutes however as Grant lunged in for a silly foul and picked up his 2nd yellow. Cheerio. TB didn’t let this bother them and even re-took the lead early in the 2nd half of ET. A ball was floated in and while Hateley stayed firmly on his line, his defence struggled to clear the ball away and TB found Touray at the back post who volleyed into the top corner to amazingly give the home side the lead. Gresley don’t lie down though and with just four minutes of their FA Vase run remaining, they equalised for the 3rd time against TB. When a corner came in, TB fannyed around in clearing it and when they did it arrived to Rob Spencer. He smashed a volley straight through Woodward and put us towards penalties again. The drama wasn’t finished there though as TB had another shot cleared off the line as finally after 240 minutes of pulsating football. This tie would be decided on penalties.


Gresley stepped up first with Goodfellow launching the ball into the roof of the net before TB’s Brake did likewise with his shot. Gough and Rivers also scored before Nottingham and Carden did too to make the pens at 3-3. Neither goalie had looked close to saving one so Lyons and Howard had a fairly easy job of dispatching their spot kicks before Jepson and Donaghey did likewise to take us into sudden death. Langford and O’Hara scored the first round of sudden death to make it 6-6 before Gresley’s Hanslow made it 7-6. By this time Hateley had been getting closer to some of the spot kicks (unlike Woodward) and when Charlie Cooke’s penalty wasn’t well struck, Gresley had finally come out on top after 240 minutes and 14 penalties worth of football. This was a sensational FA Vase tie.

Penalty Summary:

Gresley FC (took first) –- Three Bridges

Goodfellow scored -- Brake scored
Gough scored -- Rivers scored
Nottingham scored -- Carden scored
Lyons scored -- Howard scored
Jepson scored -- Donaghey scored
Langford scored -- O’Hara scored
Hanslow scored -- Cooke saved


Firstly, the unpleasantries. There has been a fair amount of debate on this on various forums such as the Non-League Matters Forum (see Where Did You Go? for Jan 28th) and the Gresley forum itself. Gresley are saying that these dickheads which almost ruined the match aren’t actually Gresley fans and just turned up on a coach from a pub, probably did. I think I recognised one or two from the home game but once you’ve seen one lager lout, you’ve seen them all. The fact is, the majority of Gresley fans were well behaved on the day and were an asset to their club. Any hoppers who read this and feel they don’t fancy a trip to Gresley because of this, I’d still tell you to go as the welcome I got in Derbyshire a week earlier was exceptional and better than a lot of clubs. It will be interesting to see how Gresley approach this in the future to avoid gaining a “reputation”, especially if they are promoted back to the Evo-Stik League next season.

As for Three Bridges, you’ve made a new fan. A smashing little club that did themselves proud over the two games and I will hope to see more of them in the future and would quite happily come back here for another game. I was wanting to say, come on then Gresley lets go to St Ives together, but as it stands, the original game (tomorrow, as I write this) has been called off and the re-arranged game for 18th Feb, is when I am in Scotland. Oops. Good luck to them against the United Counties side whenever that game is played. (I think they’ll have too much for them) Maybe we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.

P.S – Graham Yapp’s excellent Modus Hopper Random blog has already got the match report from this on, including more excellent highlights including the penalty shootout! Check it out HERE.

Photos from Three Bridges vs Gresley FC


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (another excellent game)

- Value for money: 6/10 (same as Gresley)

- Ground: 6/10 (good open ground to watch football at)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (good at times, nasty at others)

- Food: 7/10 (bonus point for Irn Bru)

- Programme: 6/10 (a mix of adverts and then some decent stats)

- Referee: B Knight – 5/10 (disappointed with his lack of action on spitgate)

TB vs Gres prog

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2011/2012:

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Croydon FC 1-2 Beckenham Town (Croydon Sports Arena, Att: 51)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Beckenham Town 5-1 Fisher FC (Eden Park Avenue, Att: 58)

1ST ROUND: Three Bridges 3-0 Beckenham Town [After Extra Time] (Jubilee Field, Att: 68)

2ND ROUND: Rye United 1-2 Three Bridges (The Salts, Att: 105)

3RD ROUND: Southend Manor 0-0 Three Bridges [After Extra Time] (Southchurch Park, Att: 64)

3RD ROUND REPLAY: Three Bridges 4-1 Southend Manor (Jubilee Field, Att: 66)

4TH ROUND: Gresley 1-1 Three Bridges [After Extra Time] (Moat Ground, Att: 524)

4TH ROUND REPLAY: Three Bridges 2-2 Gresley FC [Gresley win 7-6 on penalties] (Jubilee Field, Att: 308)

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